Tag Archive | Institute for the Psychology of Eating

dear eaters

Recently, having taken the commuter bus to work, I walked past a low-income housing complex that is on the way to the Health Center from the bus stop. As I approached the complex, I saw two women standing on the sidewalk in front of the buildings. I would guess they were both in their sixties. One of them was blind and holding her white cane. The other stood very close to her, ready to guide her if necessary.

Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

I was quickly scurrying along, gauging my pace on my need to arrive at my office on time. As I only take the bus on occasion, I was aware that my mind was taking in very different impulses along this route than when I drive. As the two women came into view, I processed thoughts about the nature of their relationship, kindness, the burden of poverty coupled with blindness, and a reminder to myself to work on my gratitude list. Just as I was passing them, the blind woman said, “And I heard that sugar substitutes aren’t that good for you and that they make you crave more sugar.” The sighted woman replied, “Yes, I heard that too.” (Resources: Sweet Deception, Sweet Misery)

I often say that it does not take long in the course of my day for some nutrition-based message to filter into my consciousness. Yet, this was an unexpected source. By the time the women exchanged the two sentences my steps had already taken me just past them. For a split second, I thought to stop to engage them in a conversation, to inform them of my nutritional proficiency and expound on the topic of artificial sweeteners, affirming what they had heard. Instead, I felt my lips turn into a mild smile that was intended to be for them, but that neither would ever see.

I think I absorbed the experience as a quiet lesson that one never knows how or where new information flows. In this regard, it related to my own work of attempting to expand nutritional consciousness and yet not always knowing how or where my own or others’ efforts are reaching. I internally thanked the women and carried their story into my day–and referenced them as my teachers with some of my clients.

This story also has meaning for me as I come full cycle of having written this blog for two years–and as I contemplate beginning a third. Looking back, I see that I have written seventy-five posts on various nutrition-related issues. I see them as vignettes that describe the milieu that defines eating in this current and complicated time; the challenges that dictate and mutate our food culture and the experience of the real and humble people who eat in response and reaction to this environment. I hope others see them in this way too.

I often wonder if my stories have resonance and purpose and whether they are instructive. Or, if they need be. Many people out there are doing incredible work and informing in clear and beautiful ways on how to address and improve human nourishment. It is not infrequently that I have doubts about the service of my writings and if they justify the time they demand. Are my words flowing into any cracks and crevices that may be helping others that I may never know about? Or, as my wise friend Lisa Dungate, who writes Lion’s Whiskers suggests, if my writing serves to fulfill some need of personal expression, that is adequate as well. Sometimes I don’t know.

But here are a few things I do know:

Every day a small but real number of people from all over the globe are reading my blog. Thanks to the amazing stat collecting abilities of WordPress, I know that people from eighty-four countries have seen The Nutritionist’s Dilemma. Just yesterday I had readers from Poland, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. People in Azerbaijan, Mauritius, Guinea-Bissau, Estonia, and Oman have crossed paths with my ideas as well.

My blog is listed in Healthy Living Blogs and I get some nice readers from that connection. This site offers a very vital community for people writing on many diverse topics devoted to health. I encourage anyone interested in writing and reading about these issues to visit and support the members of this site. I give thanks to Lindsey Janeiro and the staff at HLB for creating this exciting space and offering all the amazing opportunities that they do.

That my blog was also chosen by Marc David and the Institute for the Psychology of Eating as one of the Top 50 Emotional Eating Blogs of 2012. Check out #47. This was a big surprise and very exciting. It is particularly meaningful as Marc David’s work has been phenomenally inspirational to me on my own path. I have shared my feelings about the importance of Marc’s contributions in Three Good Mark(c)s.

And finally, that I have a circle of subscribers who do follow me and who offer words of kind support along with relevant insights of their own; as well as a few hundred clients a year who I am privileged to work with and who always inspire me with their courage and capacity for change.

So, though the anniversary date of my blog just happened to occur during one of the most intense of times–in the post-Superstorm Sandy and pre-election week; and, while my own dining room table was still littered with hurricane preparedness supplies and Halloween trappings; and my head swam with thoughts about health care reform and the millions affected by the storm for whom eating had suddenly taken on a new meaning regarding survival, I committed to continuing the blog that I had birthed into being one fall day, two years ago. For the occasion, I have dressed it up with a new decorative theme that I think is very nice and makes for a cleaner read. If you are a subscriber and usually receive my posts via email, do go to my home page to see its new threads. I hope you like it.

My commitment includes my decision to allow myself greater voice and visibility. In my tiny corner of the world, in the confined spaces of my offices, I bear witness to some big and powerful stories. If I can participate in the larger conversation and in turn can give expression to someone’s experience that may help others–then that can be a good thing. Who knows? Maybe a person standing on a sidewalk in Baku, Port Louis, Bissau, Tallinn or Muscan, or even in my own community will help carry the information or inspiration forward.

As always, comments, clicks on the like button, subscribing, sharing, stories, feedback, my plate haikus–and any suggestions for improving the quality, content or technological capacities of my work are greatly appreciated. No, let me amend that–deeply craved. Let me know you dropped by for a virtual cup of tea with me. Thanks.

In health, Elyn

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Julie’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Eat food

Mostly plants

Not too much.

by Michael (Pollan)

three good mark(c)s

Mark Bittman’s and my path have crossed at the library once again. In So, What’s the Dilemma?, I wrote about how the food writer, chef, and columnist threw his tome, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” in my way, blocking the entire 640-680 non-fiction aisle–just to get my attention. This time he was a little more subtle. He knew I needed something simpler for my new client, a 32-year-old guy who had been a vegetarian since his early teenage years, but despite his recent attainment of fatherhood was still eating like a teenager. His wife had called me frantically seeking help.

This time as I perused the library shelf looking for some inspiration, his similarly titled, How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian Cooking stuck out conspicuously from the other offerings. It was just what I was looking for. Weighing only about eight ounces with a mere 123 pages, I thought it would be the right serving size to present to the residual adolescent.

I was glad to see that Mark had my back. Not only did he help me with my client that day. His more recent work, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating (2008) and the follow-up companion piece, The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living (2010) has helped to spread my message about personal health and the politics of food to a vast and appreciative audience. Through his books, NY Times column, and television appearances, he is raising awareness about global food issues while providing people with the ability to make a change–that tastes really good–right in their own kitchens. In his own words, he has committed himself for decades to “battling the ascendance of convenient processed food and a general decline in quality”  which has contributed to the big pickle we now find ourselves in.

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Mark Hyman and me 2019

While waiting to check out my books, I realized he is not the only Mark to have left his mark on me. The others are Dr. Mark Hyman and Marc David. I have not merely figuratively crossed paths with them. I have the pleasure of knowing them both.

I have literally sat in Mark Hyman’s bed–it was a long time ago. Back then, he was my college housemate and friend–a doe-eyed, gentle and sensitive spiritual seeker pursuing Asian Studies. Such interest and the influence of another housemate–a nutrition graduate student-led him to both medical school and the study of Chinese medicine. Today, he is one of the leading voices in the field of alternative medicine. Not only is he a deeply caring physician, but he is also a prolific writer and a leading proponent regarding the creation of a new health care paradigm.

Mark’s practice of medicine involves a whole systems approach described by a model called Functional Medicine, which includes nutrition and lifestyle support. Approaching health from this point of view and really understanding that food is medicine, changes the conversation I have with my clients every day. Presenting health care from this angle is challenging in the climate that defines our practice of medicine. We are programmed to be patients, essentially dependent on a pharmaceutical-based promise of healing. Though it is endemic on all levels, this thinking is especially entrenched in the low-income communities like the one where I serve, because options are not available and the stressors are exacerbated.

Every day I hear the pain and strain of being stuck in this prescribed role. People limp into my office with plastic bags filled with myriad medications. In spite of this, they still ache, they are often depressed, and they feel helpless and confused. But, I see the fire in their eyes and the longing in their souls as they suggest that they do not want to take an additional pill. Acknowledging that, I can remind them that they are capable of being an active participant in their own care and feeding. This is the consciousness shift that is happening through the work of people like Mark.

And then, there is Marc David,  a good friend of Mark Hyman. He is less well-known than the “k” Marks, but his message is phenomenally powerful and equally important. Marc is a nutritional psychologist, deeply learned in the areas of the physiology of eating, metabolism, and digestion. He is the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. His books, Nourishing Wisdom: A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well Being and The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy and Weight Loss are both revolutionary in their understanding of nutrition.

As most of the cultural chatter focuses on what we eat, Marc explores the more primal questions of who we are as eaters and why and how we eat. He writes that we can no longer separate the science of nutrition from the psychology of eating. I agree. His institute is training professionals to counsel from this perspective and his message is increasingly permeating the field. His ideas are very prescient and worthy to explore. He is a scientist, a Buddhist, a healer, and a wonderful writer–but as I once told him, I think he is mainly channeling his grandmother.

So, as I continue to walk among the eaters of the world, assisting where I can, I am glad to have these three good Mark (c) s beside me. These guys, along with some other wonderfully knowledgeable and visionary people are not only informing my work but are opening new doors to the understanding of human nourishment.

I’d be interested to know which piece of the nutritional puzzle you feel you most need to address, advance or heal your eating or health status. Is it informational, structural, shopping/cooking or emotional/behavioral support?

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

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Kripalu’s My Plate 

My Plate Haiku

Food made joyfully

As a gift of time and self

Feeds body and soul. by Anne Marie